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'It seemed terrible to be going away and killing them'

Audio file

Joyce Harrison remembers the war at home

Joyce Harrison was born in Wellington in 1927. She was not quite 12 years old when the war began and remembered hearing about Uncle Alfred – referred to by her aunt as ‘poor, dear Alf’ – who had died at Gallipoli in 1915. She connected the start of another war with her uncle and realised ‘there would be people killed that we might know’. Joyce was a little confused about what it would mean for her. She felt some fear but the threat, at that stage, seemed vague.

In this extract Joyce talks about whether she felt fearful when the war began:


Joyce Harrison: Yes, in a vague sort of way, but at that stage I suppose we were aware that Hitler might come and take us over too. We were well aware that these countries were being taken over one by one. They all seemed a long way away and I suppose our parents reassured us that we were a long way away. And of course eventually we had the air raid trenches in the schools. This would be later of course.

Interviewer: Yes

Joyce Harrison: But at the beginning I don’t think probably, well I don’t think I had any real fears of becoming a prisoner, or of being invaded by Hitler. We were very conscious of Hitler and the Huns and I can remember saying to my father, ‘Are they all bad, you know they can’t all the Huns?’ We called them [the Germans] Huns. ‘They can’t all be bad men.’ And he would say, ‘Well, they’re not.’ It seemed to be terrible to be going away and killing them. It was bad enough them killing us but for us to be killing them too seemed very strange, however.

Joyce Harrison

Joyce Harrison at Paekākāriki, about 1940 and at home in 2007.


Sound file: Interviewed by Alison Parr, 28 June 2007. From the Civilian New Zealanders in the Second World War Oral History Project, Ministry for Culture and Heritage.
Original interview held in Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. Not to be reproduced.

Images: Joyce Harrison collection; Alison Parr

How to cite this page

'It seemed terrible to be going away and killing them', URL:, (Manatū Taonga — Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated